I think the summer tour achieved the modest goals. I can see where people want to continue the same sort of messaging, imagery, in an effort to improve the leader's fortunes and the party as a whole. However, I had to admit I worry that Liberals have "fallen in love" with the summer formula and our desire to replicate into the fall session opens us up for voluntary criticism.
Don Martin's column is titled "New Liberal strategy — keep Ignatieff out of Ottawa". I think the internal enthusiasm fails to recognize one simple fact- summer is over. In the summer, Parliament isn't sitting, there is NO reason to be in Ottawa. However, with a raucous fall session awaiting Parliament, the idea that Ignatieff will be awol, conducting a marginally covered town hall, while important issues are debated, brings with it the most obvious or risks. Frankly, this strategy risks undermining all the perceived "leadership" gains.
There were a few times last session where Ignatieff was out of Ottawa, during key debates. Do we remember how that went, and the damage it did? Where's Iggy, why is Rae at the forefront, where's the leader, who's running this party? The other parties will be quick to seize on Ignatieff being away, should the opportunity arise. The media won't be following him on a bus, they'll be in Ottawa, and if Ignatieff isn't around, his leadership image will take a hit.
I loved the jeans, the ball cap, I thought the Liberal team proved itself smart and quite capable. However, I also believe that we've extrapolated that temporary feel good period and it's led to a needlessly risky fall strategy. Ottawa is the game, there is no other arena and the opposition leader gets the most traction where that action exists. Ignatieff will get some local coverage, he will get some national coverage, he will get some "on the road" soundbites, no question. That said, it seems pretty obvious from here how those perceived positives can be quickly undone. Factor in the "it gets old" component, the story loses its new, fresh appeal and Ignatieff might look like he's nowhere.
Right now, the thing the Liberals need is a strong leader, leading a strong, united, capable opposition, give all the appearance of a government in waiting. I'm just not sold with the idea that "getting out of Ottawa" addresses our current need, and in the end the strategy may just produce a few self inflicted wounds.